Dreadnok Thunder Machine (1986)

If you hadn’t made the connection between the designs of Mad Max and the Dreadnok concept in its first year of release, you sure couldn’t escape the comparison by ’86. The Thunder Machine is a straight-up toy rendition of a vehicle Lord Humungus and his crew might have rocketed through the wasteland.

This was one nutso vehicle–and I loved it. The Thunder Machine looks junkyard at first glance, but when you study a bit, the thing really is a solid ride. It touched a chord with me as a kid whose fascination with cars was growing at the time. The front end instantly reminded me of a late-model Pontiac Firebird, one of my favorite childhood cars. This thing sits on a pretty wicked rake as well. It’s a crazed post-apocalyptic hot rod for the GI Joe universe.

Thunder Machine (1986)

More crazy design elements: police lights up top and a roll cage for the dual front machine guns. The lights make me expect to see some Main Force Patrol regalia hidden somewhere in the stickers. And why the roll cage for the machine guns? Hey, those are some seriously expensive weapons; you gotta keep ‘ em safe if you roll your ride.

And there’s just as much horsepower in the back as there is firepower in the front thanks to a jet engine–the 80s movie references won’t stop– I’m getting a total Buckaroo Banzai jet car vibe going here. Finally, it’s funny to think that a bunch of whackos like the Dreadnoks had more sense to armor up their ride than Cobra’s leadership did with their vehicles.

As a toy, the detail is off the charts. It’s a bruiser of a mold, and more hefty than a VAMP or HISS in terms of its weight. As a kid, I was blown away by the rubber wheels and movable steering linkage. Too bad this one never saw a refit in the modern line.

Thunder Machine (1986)

Thunder Machine (1986)



  • The weapons and armor were enough to get me to make this a default Cobra vehicle to augment Stuns and the aging Hiss Tanks. Thrasher got dumped for a beat up Viper and many a Joe met his end at the hand of the mighty cannons.

    I also took the gatling guns and fit them into the gun slot on the all black A-Team tank. It made for a great anti infantry weapon that better fit with ’83 Cobra.

    • I expected you to point out that Funskool had the Thunder Machine molds and reissued it sometime in the 90’s with some colors changes (IIRC the front end was blue?). ( I wish I’d saved the photo I saw). I guess they stopped making them before the period of US imports by online sellers.

  • Dreadnok: Spirit

    I never had any of the Dreadnok vehicles and I’m not sure why I didn’t just buy the Street Fighter II version of the Thunder Machine.

  • Even the driver looks like Toecutter from 1st Mad Max. Awesome.

  • ”Fabricated from used car/truck parts ,makes anyone wonder, why such a rattling rat- trap of an item,would the Dreadnoks use it, instead,of scouring the junkyards high/low further,to find something better to come up with, instead of this trashy looking so- called thunder machine.The Dreadnoks could have come up with an old knocked out G.I. Joe Mauler Tank carcuss,and refitted it with whatever they needed and put the markings, saying” Dreadnoks Rule”.I was NEVER a fan of Mel Gibson’s post apocalyptic Mad Max movies.”

  • I have a hard time believing the thundermachine is as invincible as it was depicted in the comics. In one issue, it ploughs through a factory and power plant yet still works. I’d be surprised if that thing could even get into first gear. It has ‘Ork speed freek’ written all over it.

    • ”I agree with you Skymate .In one comic book from the Marvel series, G.I.Joe #79 Dreadnok Thrasher and his Thunder Machine try to take on Cross Country and his H.A.V.O.C.,to find out who’s vehicle can outdrive the other, and Cross Country wins by crushing the Thunder Machine under the H.A.V.O.C. to pulp.”

  • I’ll never forget, my neighbor Brad had one and I never did… until much later in life.

    My favorite vehicle of all time.

  • This was my first purchase on ebay back in ’99. It sure led me down a rabbit hole!

  • A great vehicle….wish I still had mine. Can the new sculpt version of Thrasher fit inside it Rob?

  • Funny how there’s a love/hate fan vibe on the Thunder Machine. I loved it; a lot of attention was given to the design. The ramshackle look played right into my stories: I dumped all my spare parts in a corner, and that was the ‘Noks’ junkyard. The Thunder Machine would sit there innocuously as Joe approached then BRRRRRRRMMM with the guns!

  • Best wheeled vehicle design in the whole of the G.I.Joe line up.

    armor plates with textural details,
    real-life vehicle design incorporated into the front,
    real steerable front tires,
    headlight and extra roof light details, emergency lights,
    powertrain details,
    antenna for real world based communication technologies,
    holds TEN figures officially, and can be unofficially loaded for more,
    flexible ammo belt feeding cannon that have open barrel end detail,
    roll cage under the armor plates,
    steering wheel and detailed seats, floor, and interior panels.

    Only thing missing on this excellent toy is real working suspension, such as that found on the A.W.E. striker, or Badgers rear axle.

    Fang it!!!

  • Daaaam!! That’s the one !!!
    Waking up a few days ago, I remembered this vehicle I had.
    I looked everyone on the web, trying to figure out where it came from.

    I was a lucky kid with a lot of toys (alas ? lol !), and no idea where most of them came from, as we were buying them at various sunday markets, most of the time incomplete.
    In my country and at this era, toys were toys, and meant to be unpacked and played with, the hell out of them, swapping and mixing every pieces and brand we could! ^^

    So, no idea of this vehicle origin, or even if I had it complete or not.
    I identified a few brands I had past in the day : Mask, Visionnaries, Unifighters, etc…
    But no luck there finding this beast 😉
    And how to find this precise one, with so few hints/keywords like “mad max toy vehicle, with machine guns on it ?”
    This doesn’t work on google.

    But I didn’t gave up, and this morning I remembered GI Joe, I don’t know why.
    I started looking 20 min ago, and stumble about the same kind of wheels I remembered this car having.
    Only on hummers.
    But I was unto something for sure !

    So I kept digging, and here we are, I finally have my answer, and a look to the complete model! Yeaaah!!
    (mine was missing all upper plates and front grid)

    Thanks for this website! (and all others similar to it)
    It’s such a blast to look up for those memories, and know they live on vividly in so many people’s life!

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